We’d like to introduce you to Susan, business owner and entrepreneur, who recently worked with one of our Wyse thinkers, Henk Jansen, in the wake of Covid-19 when she was facing its detrimental impact on the events industry. In her own words, Susan explains how, together with Henk, they decided not to use up energy in dwelling on the situation, and redirected it into seeing a new opportunity in the market, all by re-looking at her purpose and the reason she began her businesses in the first place.
In the words of Henk, ‘I won’t teach you what it is, I’ll teach you how to think.’ And it’s amazing to see the impact that this approach had for Susan.
I was having a great time, combining work and my passions, perhaps better known as my out of control hobbies! I simply loved organising festivals. I run 4 companies; an online ticket service, a business programming music events for third parties, organising my own festivals and advising cultural institutions on their organisational branding. I created each business with a gut feel of its value and worth to the community, money was never a key driver – it was always the joy and the kicks of entrepreneurship that powered me. This culture certainly extends into my team and how they were formed. Friends, family or accidental encounters with people who thought like me. Part-time, full-time, anything was possible as long as the boat kept floating and we had fun and made some money.
The arrival of Covid-19
Suddenly there were no more festivals, musical performances or other cultural happenings involving crowds of people having fun in one place. No one needed tickets anymore, crowds were prohibited. The whole industry stopped – a shock in itself and then came month after month of unknowingly waiting with hope that the new restrictions would be over soon.
As time went by I realised my business model was based on complete dependency on someone else. I had such a loyal team who I knew were willing for change as much as I was and together we waited with hope. Deep down I knew that hope is never a strategy.
What did I do?
Step 1: Looking forward
It’s not as simple as you think to focus forward when disruption happens so quickly. There is a bit of a grievance process where you have to flow through the emotions of anger and denial of the situation. The most important thing we worked on at first was ensuring I didn’t lose myself and trap me in a downward spiral of thoughts.
Who was I? Reviewing my purpose, my passions and drives, I reminded myself how I had created 4 businesses from nothing and suddenly Covid-19 had its place, not as the huge block or the wall of no chance, it was a pothole in the road that could be navigated. One that could even create better things. In reviewing the purpose behind it all, I thought about what was my true inner drive. The purpose of my organisation was to create great festivals accessible for all. However, this was not possible so we took one step back to me. What was my purpose that gave me such a drive? The festivals were great fun of course, yet the answer to the future would have to come from its origin and why I loved doing it so much. I’d always referred to my passion as a hobby as it was easy and felt as if it was a gift to give others. When I really thought about the source, I realised I loved to create joy by gathering like minded people together, bringing people who loved the same thing into one place. You can see this in my team and it was the origin of how I lived my life.
I felt like a phoenix from the ashes, I was now in a stronger position to lead into a positive looking future.
Step 2: What did I have?
I had time and some money to support us so I worked out how long I could do that for and budgeted over the months. This gave me a timescale. Together with Henk, I mapped out a step-by-step process of my business from me, through the team and onto the successful festival. With this newly defined purpose within me I realised my avatar was not a festival goer. I extended my thinking and realised it was all about the joy of gathering those people who love a shared thing and loved being together to discuss, use or enjoy “that thing.” Step-by-step I looked at each area of the business, trying to understand (with my new avatar in mind) what part of my businesses could bring “gatherings” in a new form. What were we the experts in after successfully creating so many festivals? By doing this process I could lay out right in front of me our strengths and uniqueness, creating possibilities in my mind, every moment building my confidence that the answer would be here. I got rid of what no longer served – I could now see what contributed to the experience for my new avatar and therefore planned to close down all operations that were now redundant.
Step 3: Levering off my greatest strength, my team
In order to create these opportunities, I knew that I would be making hard decisions in certain areas. As I had an amazingly loyal team that shared my passion I took the time to have some open conversations about my ideas knowing they would want to be a part of this new direction. The culture of who we were and the unified purpose we shared could certainly now play its role as we looked for where opportunities were. We laid out our purpose of gathering people to share fun at festivals and asked ourselves the question “how could we contribute to gathering people without people being able to gather?” As crazy as it sounds, it worked. I think the contradiction of the question itself helped open our minds. By asking ourselves a different question it created a new space in our thinking to look at our key processes in a different way. Together we could see that our strength and skills as an online ticket platform could be something we could pivot and take to a new level; delivering software and knowledge to organisations so they can help prepare to sell more tickets online for both future live events, as well as signing up for online hobby clubs and events whilst social distancing measures were still in place. Our value now became our software, knowledge and experience rather than the complete end to end.
Step 4: Moving on, finding joy with the right partnerships
Finding my purpose on a deeper level gave me the greatest joy as it allowed me to see a new direction and gave us a different business model that could be opened up to other industries. Our clear voice in the market meant we attracted the right partnerships and alliances to work with, and it was an easy match because we have never been so clear about who we are. Stronger together as they say, and we were. We welcomed new customers, those we never thought of before, and even on a global scale our service is now growing in markets formerly neglected because of the purpose that was too narrowly defined to a specific style of event. For example, I had never thought of the possibility that our service could be used in the travel and sports business.
Our service was our uniqueness and knowing how best to support companies. We knew what they needed beyond their ticket selling software as that was where I came from; creating unforgettable festivals and now I help others to create unforgettable memories.
My list of advice to other female entrepreneurs:
- Use and choose the right mindset by truly connecting to your inner drive, what do you personally stand for?
- Focus on the essence of your purpose not just the existing activity or product that delivers it
- Build your team from the perspective of shared values and complementary competences
- Broaden your perspective and be innovative regarding customer partnerships
- Dare to challenge the existing structures. Partnerships and alliances are strong drivers of a more rapid growth when you connect on values
We loved hearing Susan’s story and how her and Henk worked together with the tools and knowledge that was right there in front of her – her own purpose, passion and expertise.
Getting to know Henk
Henk has worked with Wyseminds since its inception and writes every month on our blog about Trep, a visitor from planet PRPSINC. The theme of his blog series reflects the simplicity that Henk, with his years of experience in coaching and supporting entrepreneurs, stands by. It’s sometimes the small adjustment we make that gives us the answers we need the most and we should never forget the questions we should ask ourselves. Each one of Henk’s blog articles seeks to remind us of the things to consider and ask ourselves as we seek to grow our business.
We like to see Henk as the Aesop for entrepreneurs, as Aesop wrote his fables to guide moral grounding, Henk uses Trep to remind us of the questions to ask ourselves if we wish for a seamless growth that has the impact we desire. Discover the Trep blog series >